Let's Eat

Helen Graham has announced she is leaving her Bubala

But here's why Middle Eastern food fans don't need to worry


Family break ups are always sad but this one has touched me more than most — and may have London’s Middle Eastern food fans in a tizz.

Since Marc Summers proudly presented us with his first Bubala in autumn 2019, the veggie-centric restaurant won my heart. The banging flavours served up by Summers and his Executive Chef, Helen Graham totally bowled me (and London’s restaurant critics) over.

Although Graham had been at the stove for this project with Summers overseeing front of house, he's also a trained chef, having founded Bubala in 2018 as a pop up while working at Josh Katz’s Middle Eastern Grill House, Berber & Q as general manager. Graham joined him the following year.

The pair launched to huge critical acclaim and the tiny Spitalfields dining room was joined by a Soho sibling in summer of 2022. Every mouthful was still a revelation — from heavily grilled tiny shitake and oyster mushrooms skewers, doused in soy, coriander seed and maple syrup; smoky baba ghanoush to their signature (utterly divine) halloumi slathered in sticky, black seed honey.

Last week, Graham announced on the Gram that she was moving on: “After 5 incredible years at @bubala_london and approx 300 tonnes of hummus, I've made the tough decision to step away and pursue some exciting solo projects. What a ride — from the pop-ups, to our first site in Spitalfields, followed by the second in Soho, the love for these places has been amazing, and I feel very grateful and humbled by it all! … Live, Laugh, Labneh”.

I checked in with Graham, who said the departure is far from acrimonious just a simple divergence in their visions of the future: “Marc’s plan has always been to have a larger company and more sites. I enjoyed it being two sites only. He wants to continue with the expansion, but my heart wasn’t in it.”

She said it felt the right time to break away.

My heart sunk, but after messaging Summers I can confirm there’s no need to fret: “We’re currently trialling some really great people so hopefully we’ll announce the new person by the beginning of next year with some other exciting news also!”

In the meantime, JFS alumna Graham (whose CV includes recipe development for Ottolenghi; stints at The Palomar and Barbary and time at The Good Egg) is taking some time out to head for a Sri Lankan beach and in 2024, will be looking for freelance work consulting and food writing. “I want more variety and travel to spread my expertise in vegetarian food around — that’s my speciality.”

So, I’m seeing this break up as a double positive — more of Bubala’s unrivalled vegetarian flavours in, what sounds like additional sites — AND to taste whatever Graham cooks up next.


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